Feminism and Motherhood

I’m just as mystified (and as unfortunately gendered) as Tim Kevin, but I also have to ask: What’s so wrong about taking a look at women who want to be stay-at-home moms or to have kids before the biological clock? I’ve read the Daphne de Marneffe interview twice and, from what I can see, it looks like de Marneffe’s simply trying to get inside basic child care issues, at least as they apply to the stay-at-home mom or the aspiring mom: how much time is enough, how do you balance various attentions, and the like.

What’s particularly interesting is that de Marneffe’s assessing how societal norms influence stay-at-home mothers, and whether these norms are compatible with the realities. In addition, de Marneffe’s taken an interesting position: feminism and psychoanalysis have looked upon the childrearing role as somehow regressive or limiting, and have sometimes failed to account for it or integrate it with the empowered woman.

By no means does this condemn or dismiss feminism. But it does point out one of its potential limitations. (And this is, interestingly enough, where Betty Friedan was roasted.) In fact, back in 1997, Anne Roiphe wrote Fruitful: A Real Mother in the Modern World, a book dealing with this very issue: how do you balance feminism and motherhood? Are they so antipodal? (Jim Lehrer interview here.)

I’d have a real problem if de Marneffe was suggesting that being a mother was the only option for a woman. But she’s not. She’s not categorizing men as hunter-gatherers or women as nurturers. She’s looking into women who want to exercise responsibility, albeit in a maternal role. That’s certainly a wider swath than the Caitlin who shall remain unnamed.

Honestly, I don’t get the anger here. If the Third Wave is to advance, then these things do need to be addressed. Outside of a classist argument (which would preclude the desire and certainly limits de Marneffe’s scope), would Jessa or some other person explain to my addled Y-chromosome ass why looking into this issue is bad?

[3/23/04 UPDATE: Jessa clarifies her position, which arises from books she’s currently reading. I understand. Right now, I’m reading Eric Kraft’s Peter Leroy books. While they’ve proven to be fun, the constant references to clams really annoy me. To the point where I’ve avoided clam chowder, clam salad, and anything relating to clams. Plus, I inadvertently referred to Kevin as Tim, demonstrating that I’m irrevocably addled. I promise to befriend more Kevins in the next six months.]

[3/23/04 PM UPDATE: And another interview with de Marneffe is up at the NYT. Patricia Cohen does a better job clarifying the conundrum than Salon did. Ayelet Waldman also weighs in, whereby she quibbles over the universal application of motherhood. And more from Liz Kolbert.]


  1. you are right, ed. but many of these people have suicidal tendencies and therefore despise natural, traditional ways of living. to hell with raising healthy, loving kids. wetware to be filled with ideologies. test-tubes and the State!! as long as I have my freedom!!!

    the result: mass death. depression. suicide. loneliness and promiscuity.

    oh. and more crappy books by/about abstracted people afraid of life.

    hmmm…and they’ve stolen the name Third Wave!

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